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Luetkemeyer Column- Preventing Another Solyndra


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During the month I spent in the district visiting with constituents, there was one common theme that many of you expressed quite vocally: "Stop spending so much of our darn money." I couldn't agree more, with our deficit now above $16 trillion and our young people wondering how they're going to pay for this mess.

With that in mind, one of the key votes I made this week was in favor of the No More Solyndras Act and from what I heard back in Missouri, the name Solyndra is familiar to many of you. Let's recap the circumstances surrounding the failure of the solar panel maker which, I believe, clearly illustrates the monumental failure of the president's so-called stimulus act that I voted against in 2009.

In March, 2009, the Department of Energy (DOE) approved a $535 million loan guarantee to Solyndra for construction of a commercial-scale manufacturing plant. The company shuttered its doors on August 31, 2011 and laid off 1,100 workers after filing for bankruptcy. At one point the president praised this project with a press event at the company in which officials touted both the stimulus act for making the deal possible and the administration's commitment to affordable energy and job creation. However, the new Section 1705 Loan Program which was created by the president's stimulus act failed on so many levels.

Not only did this program fund the failed Solyndra solar project, but it spent over two billion taxpayer dollars on credit subsidy costs that are normally covered by borrowers in other DOE loan guarantee programs and guaranteed roughly $16 billion to create an estimated 2,400 permanent jobs. That works out to a taxpayer exposure of $6.7 million per job.

In an effort to ensure these loans are no longer offered to unworthy projects, my colleagues and I in the House passed the No More Solyndras Act which would terminate the DOE's mismanaged loan guarantee program and provide taxpayers with strong new protections for any pending applications. The legislation provides greater loan guarantee transparency, prohibits DOE from restructuring the terms of any loan guarantee without Treasury Department consultation and reaffirms that it is forbidden to subordinate the interest of U.S. taxpayers to other investors. I am hopeful, but not optimistic, that the Senate will quickly pass this legislation and send it to the president for his signature.

Like you, I believe that the federal government should stop throwing our money at failed programs choosing to support energy projects that are not economically viable or efficient, especially at a time when we're running record deficits. It will be increasingly hard to reduce the deficit or tackle the debt if we don't act quickly and decisively. Our tax money should not be used to finance risky bets like Solyndra and other stimulus boondoggles in which our government ignores red flags time and again and ends up borrowing money from China, losing hundreds of millions of dollars, and sticking us with the tab.

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